Leverage: “The Tap-Out Job”

Christian Kane is in the spotlight this week with his meatiest episode since last season’s “The Two-Horse Job”. And while that episode gave us a picture of his past, this one does more to show us the struggle that pushed him to leave home to begin with. ((Like Martin Blank, I imagine Eliot decided one night that he’s going to kill someone and got out of town fast.)) Eliot’s impassioned defense of MMA to Sophie told us more about the man he is and why he would choose to keep doing good than all his prior conversations combined.

This was a good one. Keep reading to see how good.

If Leverage makes the leap from diversion to must-see – and I think this creative team has the chops to make that happen – I’m pretty sure we’ll be looking back at tonight’s episode as one of the turning points. The formula was changed a bit in ways I believe we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future, ways that enhance the drama and increase our attachment to the characters. I’ve always liked Kane as an actor and Eliot as a character but tonight was the first time I felt myself invested in his journey.

Coupled with a big enough fourth act complication that I couldn’t foresee all the things the team had to do to win and I actually believed Eliot had been drugged. Because I had become so invested in the action, I actually forgot the information dropped in the first act about the doctor’s relationship to Jack Howarth right until he jumped into the ring. I don’t believe that was my failing as a viewer; I think it was brought about by successful manipulation by the writers.

I was happy to see the team exposed by one of their marks and the menace Tank represented to Sophie – amplified by her intense hatred and fear of the MMA milieu – momentarily looked like it might lead to an even bigger complication. Anything could have happened at that moment and the unpredictability of it heightened the tension. It might have done well to hold off a bit longer before Nate and Eliot rushed in but even for those few seconds the threat was palpable.

The rest of the episode delivered the usual assortment of feints, tricks, hacks, and humor but this time it felt like the accompaniment to a bigger show and not the only thing on display. Although the show frequently works at shading these characters, this one really nailed it. Bigger than Nate’s son and divorce, bigger even than Sophie’s betrayal in the two-part finale, tonight was also smaller, with a human-scale con to help people who felt real.

Some other thoughts:

  • I want Nate’s golf ball. I haven’t played in a few years, since before I had back surgery, and while I’m stronger and more flexible than I was then I have little interest in taking back up the most frustrating of all non-sports. ((As former tennis journeyman Justin Gimelstob tweeted last week, it’s “not a sport when a 59 year old can still have a better day than the supposed best player of all-time.”)) But with a gyroscopic ball…
  • The writers did disappoint me on one level. Back in the day ((Way the hell back.)) on General Hospital, a boxer was dosed with foxglove that had been mixed with DMSO and applied on a towel or in his gloves, I don’t recall which. DMSO is a solvent with a very high absorption rate through the skin and is used for topical applications. It was pretty interesting and shockingly accurate medicine for a show churning out five hours of melodrama a week. I was disappointed when Mark’s water turned out to be the vector.
  • I loved Parker’s take down of Hardison and the fact that she would not let him up. The particular choke hold she used was maybe just the slightest bit interesting/disturbing.
  • I also loved Hardison’s reaction to being asked a question while in said choke hold.
  • I’m pretty sure they were full of crap with Rucker’s ball. Fiddling with the RFID to effect its flight? Really? I don’t buy it.
  • I’m glad Eliot’s fight in the alley was a gauntlet Rucker puts all his fighters through. At first I thought it was just a throwback to old kung fu flicks where the bad guys attack one at a time.
  • Sophie, Sophie, Sophie. I’d feel more sympathy for her food troubles if she didn’t come from England. Food shouldn’t be yellow? They put corn on pizza. “Meat should never be used as an adjective?” British meat should never be used as a food stuff. Still funny.
  • Stealing the concert was a little too simple and didn’t get much time but I loved Nate’s simple Nebraska man pitching his screenplay to the director. Priceless.
  • “I can’t hack a hick.”
  • Why was there a saxophone in Rucker’s car? Does Parker think the sax is a deadly weapon?
  • Sophie, finally, with the pork rinds.

What did everyone else think?